If you are weary of the half-hearted crimson roses, kissing bears, and heart-shaped boxes of bonbons Valentine’s Days often include, why not consider staying in and watching an oldie-but-goodie romance instead? You’ll save a bundle on an evening out with babysitter.
Of course, when it comes to romantic movies, spouses don’t always see eye-to-eye. So, if he can’t tolerate another sappy chick flick and you can’t stand another testosterone-fueled action movie, don’t worry, I’ve rounded up nine sweet movie treats that men and women can enjoy together.
So put the kids to bed a little early, pour some bubbly, pop up your favorite corn, and select the perfect Hollywood confection to warm up a winter evening. To help you choose, I’ve compared each film to a type of bon-bon. Let the snuggling begin!
An English Walnut Cluster: Dead Again
You’ll love this movie to death. Once upon a time, Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson were a real-life couple. But that was then and this is now. Or perhaps then is now and the rest is payback. You might not be sure either, once you get knee-deep into this 1991 romance thriller that’s artfully laced with surprises. Branagh is Mike Church, a private eye looking not for “Miss Right” but for “Miss Right Now.” The woman he finds instead is Grace (Thompson), a mute mystery woman searching for her forgotten identity. Without their realizing it, the same karma that brings them back together may also cleft their love in twain.
A Chocolate-covered Cherry: Say Anything
It’s hard to find a first time love story with staying power but this one makes the cut. Who wouldn’t enjoy this late eighties romantic comedy written and directed by Cameron Crowe? Diane Court (Ione Skye) is graduating at the top of her class and facing a bright and ambitious future. But she realizes almost too late that she has missed out on all the usual high school rites of passage. Lucky for her that’s where Lloyd Dobbler (John Cusack) comes in. He’s just the dare-to-be-great kind of guy who’s looking to watch over a girl like Diane-much to her father’s chagrin.
A Chocolaty Heart-shaped Crisp: Notting Hill
Can an unassuming bookstore owner and a movie star find lasting love? Hugh Grant’s bookish William says it best in this 1999 hit romantic comedy, “I live in Notting Hill. You live in Beverly Hills. Everyone in the world knows who you are, my mother has trouble remembering my name.” But there is something about William’s stable, anonymous life (not to mention his quirky charm) that Julia Robert’s Anna Scott can’t seem to resist. And if that isn’t enough, there’s always the colorful vocabulary of Grant’s ridiculing roomie, played by Rhys Ifans, and the incredulous reactions of his mates to keep you rooting for this unlikely relationship.
A Dark Chocolate Fig Truffle: Frida
You’ll appreciate this celebration of colorful, messy and enduring love-iconic-artist style. Director Julie Taymor elevates this 2002 biopic of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo to the heights of moving picture poetry. Selma Hayek plays the bold and colorful Frida, who takes as many risks in life and love as she does in her art. But her love affair with Diego Rivera is the one that will keep you watching. Alfred Molina plays Rivera, a man “physiologically incapable of fidelity.” Unfaithful is one thing, the real question becomes can he be loyal?
Milk Chocolate Butter Cream: The Philadelphia Story
One of the prettiest sights in this fine pretty world is watching Katharine Hepburn try to make up her mind about which man she should marry. Even better when her character, Tracy Lord, seems about to teeter off her pedestal, as she tries to choose from three charming men including Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant. Stewart, as Macaulay “Mike” Connor, is in his element, matching mercurial moods to Hepburn’s larger-than-life gilded girl on the verge of softening. A witty 1940’s classic for a classy couple.
Chocolate Covered Nuts: Benny and Joon
Raisins play a pivotal role in a crush-inducing conversation in this quirky 1993 romantic comedy. A sometimes serious (thanks to Aidan Quinn’s Benny), sometimes slapstick (thanks to Johnny Depp’s Sam), sometimes thought-provoking (thanks to Mary Stuart Masterson’s Joon) romp into the complicated combination of love and mental illness. That’s oddball amoré. Think it’s inappropriate to traipse so lightly into the land of mental instability? Think again.
A Chocolate Caramel: The Bridges of Madison County
Francesca Johnson and Robert Kincaid are smokin’ hot at midlife despite the fact that Meryl Streep’s character is married with children and Clint Eastwood is trying to pull off middle age at 65 (and succeeding very nicely). Director Eastwood plays National Geographic photographer Robert Kincaid, who awakens a volcanic passion in farm wife Streep she never knew she had. After four days, one of the most emotionally riveting moments in film history comes down to a car door handle. Slightly hokey, but totally worth it.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Crunch: Reality Bites
He loves me, I hate him. He loves me, I hate myself. Generation X-ters Winona Rider, Ethan Hawke and Ben Stiller (as Lelaina, Troy and Michael respectively) constellate at an early peak in their collective careers to deliberate yuppie vs. slacker values. Friend Vicki, played by a sassy Janeane Garofalo, thinks Troy and Lelaina should just “do it and get it over with,” but the rest of us won’t mind if they take their sweet time. Stiller directs philosophizing, ambition-a-phobia and a healthy dose of nineties ambivalence with a movie-within-a-movie flourish.
A Maple Cream: Same Time Next Year
Give this seventies sleeper (based on the play of the same name) half a chance. By the time you get past the first interlude you’ll forget you’re watching Hawkeye Pierce. Performances by Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn broaden and deepen as George and Doris return every five years to continue their affair. Film montages that replay historical highlights are stirring against the repetition of the musical score. If it just doesn’t work for you, tell your parents. They’ll enjoy it. The sweetest film about adultery you’ll ever chance to watch.
Christina Katz is an author, journalist, and writing coach who enjoys a steady stream of chocolates and movies, preferably shared with her honey.